Never underestimate the capacity of humanity to be both clever and stupid. #notallpredators
An alien spacecraft under attack barely escapes to crash-land on Earth; a single object ejects from the failing ship before impact. On the ground nearby, earthling McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is a sniper assigned to a team in the middle of a hostage rescue… one too close to where the alien escape pod lands. The mission is essentially scrapped, but McKenna instinctively knows his find will be covered up, taking steps to preserve evidence as his teammates start getting killed off. Scientist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) is tapped soon after the incident and brought into a covert lab facility attempting to unravel the mysteries of the alien “predators” since their first-recorded appearance in 1987. Unfortunately, McKenna’s curious and too-clever son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) has already gotten into the box of evidence — pieces of alien armor — to accidentally set off a homing beacon that puts himself, his father, the lab, and all of humanity at risk.
Whew! That’s a lot to take in, and that’s not even the entire first act of details to get this thing rolling. Touching on almost every aspect of the Predator movie franchise while world-building to rapidly expand it, director Shane Black along with writer Fred Dekker have created the Superman Returns of Predator movies, trying to remind us of everything before it, throw in more than a little fan service, and still end everything with an Independence Day: Resurgence sequel-if-we-succeed promise of more coolness to come. Is a franchise restart trying to be all things to everyone really the best way to kickstart this thing back into relevance?
There are things here that will make fans cringe and audiences angry — the magic autistic child trope, for one — but there is also a bunch of what made the original Predator so much fun to begin with: snarky human misfits out of their depth trying to survive against something hunting them for sport. The exemplary Robert Rodriguez-produced Predators from 2010 also introduced us to the “Super Predator,” a rival to the traditional Predators we’ve come to know and love. As a side note, none of the films have yet to touch upon the canon matriarchal aspects of Predator society in the way the comics have, especially in showing us an actual female. But for all the plot and seedlings stuffed into this production, it all actually works as long as you keep one idea in mind: humans make wild assumptions when it comes to their actual importance in anything.
Without giving away essential plot points, the motivations behind this film’s story may only include two Predator groups at most — perhaps a specific tribe and their direct rival — and humans making some ridiculous leaps of faith as to the alien intentions of Predator-kind. Again, it’s a world-building film (intent on sequels or at least a trilogy) that checks off most of what fans want (other than a direct sequel to Predators, apparently) including some decent gore and kills. On that revelation, most of the complaints for this film pretty much evaporate except for “the kid.” Take note, Hollywood: please stop using autism as a real-life excuse for sci-fi mutant geniuses making about as much sense as unlocking more than 10% of our brains, Lucy.
The cast is adequate (wow, Thomas Jane got unrecognizably old), Olivia Munn got a chance to do some actual acting instead of being treated as window-dressing, and the kid is happily less irritating than in most movies with a character like this. Overstuffed and a denouement too far, The Predator delivers what it sets out to do even if the marketing failed to make that clear — although that last-minute real-life “predator” casting controversy won’t do the release any favors. Now, about that sequel to Predators, hmm?
The Predator is rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, and crude sexual references without resorting to lady-only nudity.
Three skull recommendation out of four